by Stacy Miller, Project Director
Since the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) first issued grants under the Farmers Market Promotion Program (FMPP), 575 projects have been awarded in all fifty states, totaling $32,310,288 in funding. In what ways has the program contributed to stronger, healthier, more innovative and inclusive food systems?
As reported in the fall issue of the market beet, the Farmers Market Coalition (FMC) launched a survey on October 10th to assess and communicate the impacts of the FMPP since its inception in 2006. Project directors from 400 organizations representing 444 grants awarded between 2006 and 2011 were contacted via email, inviting them to participate in the research effort. The survey, which contained more than 40 questions, received 202 responses representing 213 grants. Survey results are still being analyzed, but preliminary results illustrate the wide variety of grant-funded activities. Overall, grantees report an increase in vendor sales, local farm product diversity, and repeat customers since their grant was awarded. More than three-quarters of responding grantees used part of their grant funds to expand outreach to participants in federal nutrition programs. More than one-third used FMPP funds to open a new market or local food distribution outlet– nearly 90% of which are still operating today.
This survey was designed to understand funded activities, changes in grantee organization’s communities, and feedback grantees have about potential program improvements. To ensure a multi-disciplinary approach to the survey, FMC’s research team convened an FMPP Evaluation Advisory group, which includes Anne Palmer of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, Jeffrey O’Hara of the Union of Concerned Scientists, Alfonso Morales of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at University of Wisconsin, and Richard Pirog of the C.S. Mott Group for Sustainable Food Systems at Michigan State University.
Survey respondents took advantage of several opportunities to provide written comments on the survey, which will add depth to the report and help the research team identify potential projects for case studies.
“I was really impressed by the time these FMPP project directors invested to participate in this research effort,” says Stacy Miller, Project Director at FMC. “The sheer quantity of thoughtful comments is evidence of the degree FMPP grantees feel invested in their projects, and how committed they are to helping improve the program for the benefit of other eligible organizations. I’m grateful for their participation and am excited not only about making the information from the survey public, but about identifying some of the really creative innovations funded by USDA that could be shared more broadly.”
When survey analysis is complete and the report published this spring, it will be accompanied by some select case studies designed to showcase what FMPP means on the ground. Recommendations will also be made to USDA for opportunities to improve their farmers market programs.
Questions about this project can be addressed to Stacy Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org or 434-984-0175.
This research project is a partnership between the Farmers Market Coalition and marketumbrella.org, is made possible with support from the Aetna Foundation, a national foundation based in Hartford, Connecticut that supports projects to promote wellness, health, and access to high-quality health care for everyone.
Support for conducting the grantee survey was also provided by the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service, under Cooperative Agreement number 12-25-A-5663.